6 Museums in Portland That Are Great for Kids

Does your child love the outdoors? Maybe they’re fascinated with boats or trains? Perhaps they’ve taken an interest in the arts or sciences? When visiting Oregon’s most cultured city, you can easily use this to your advantage—Portland is home to a number of kid-friendly museums where little ones can learn more about the subjects that intrigue them.

There are a diversity of museums to choose from, so where should you begin? Below are six museums that are great for kids, so be sure to incorporate a few into your Portland family vacation.

Oregon Maritime Museum

198 Southwest Naito Pkwy.
11am-4pm on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Closed Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, and major holidays.

The Oregon Maritime Museum is great for anyone with a liking for all things sailing or sea-related. The museum itself is located on a working tugboat called “Portland”, which is the last operating stern-wheel, steam-powered tug in the country. The boat itself is recognized by the National Registry of Historic Places, and houses a wonderful collection of maritime relics and sea-related artifacts.

Families will learn about everything from steam powerboats to battleships, and underwater diving during their visit. Kids will love the Children’s Corner, where they can learn how to operate parts of a sailing vessel or blow a ship whistle (beware, it’s very loud!). Sea-faring memorabilia can be purchased at the museum store, so let your little sailors pick out a fun souvenir!

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

1945 SE Water Ave.
9:30am-7pm Daily. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Adults $13.50; Youth (3-13) $9.75; Seniors (63+) $9.75.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is sure to please kids who are fascinated by technology. Check out the Earth Hall, Life Hall, and Turbine Hall to learn about subjects like renewable energy, human growth and development, turbine power, and much more!

Want some hands on fun? The museum has kid-friendly science labs where children can conduct chemistry experiments, dig up plaster casts of ancient bones and fossils, or watch in amazement as static electricity from a Van de Graaff generator makes their hair stand straight up.

Children under the age of six should spend most of their time at the Science Playground outdoor area. Here, they can enjoy a delightful outdoor environment filled with fun problem-solving activities.

Oregon Rail Heritage Center

2250 SE Water Ave.
1pm-5pm Thursday through Sunday.
Admission is free. Donations are appreciated. 

The Oregon Rail Heritage Museum focuses on the history of railroads and locomotives in Oregon. Perfect for kids who love trains (and let’s face it, adults who love trains will have a blast too!). The museum houses authentic locomotives that were built during the first half of the 20th century.

Check out the Southern Pacific 4449 Train, which was built in 1941 and is the only remaining operable steam locomotive from the Art Deco period. There is also the Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700, built in 1938, and the Oregon Railroad & Navigation 197, made by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1905.

Visit on Saturday for a chance to take the kids on a 45 minute ride aboard the Oregon Pacific Railroad Passenger Train ($5/person). The train runs every hour starting at 12:30pm with the last ride departing at 4:30pm.

Portland Art Museum

1219 SW Park Ave.
10am-5pm Tuesday through Sunday. Closed on Mondays.
Adults $15; Seniors (55+) $12; Kids 17 and under, FREE.

The Portland Art Museum was established in 1892 and houses over 42,000 art pieces from ancient times up to present day. The museum is great for art-inspired teens and older kids who can let their imaginations take flight as they get lost in the exhibits.

Explore art from the Asia, Europe, and the Americas to see how various cultures have expressed themselves through paintings, sculptures, and handicrafts. Other must-see exhibits include the collection of modern art from the twentieth century and the graphic arts section containing historical prints and drawings from all over the world.

Family tours are offered every Sunday at 12:30pm in the front lobby (kids under 17, FREE).

Portland Children’s Museum

4015 Southwest Canyon Road
9am-5pm Daily. Closed Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Adults/Children (1-54) $10.75; Seniors (55+)/Military $9.75. Kids under 1, FREE.

Finally, a museum where kids don’t have to worry about keeping their hands off of the exhibits! In fact, they can expect to get them dirty! The Portland Children’s Museum focuses solely on stimulating young minds and providing an environment where kids can have fun by following their own interests and inclinations.

Each of the permanent exhibits at the museum is a miniature world where little ones can explore and learn through hands-on experiences. Let them create miniature sculptures in the Clay Studio, build their own campsite fort in the Outdoor Adventure Area, or get a taste of working life in a scaled-down grocery store, veterinary hospital, or construction site.

The Portland Children's Museum is located in Washington Park, so be sure to visit other area attractions like the Oregon Zoo or Hoyt Arboretum to round out your day.

World Forestry Center

4033 SW Canyon Rd.
10am-5pm daily during Summer. 10am-5pm Thursday through Monday during Winter. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
General Admission, $5 now through December 31, 2015. Call for 2016 rates. Children 2 and under, FREE.

The World Forestry Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the forests of the world. The center also provides information about the importance of environmental sustainability, and is ideal for kids with a natural liking for trees, plants, and nature.

Explore the first floor of the museum to learn all about the forests of the Pacific Northwest. The second floor has an exhibit dedicated to forests from all across the globe, as well as a Special Exhibits Gallery that features rotating exhibitions on subjects like art, history, and world cultures.

The center has plenty of pint-sized caves and tunnels that kids can crawl through and feel as if they are really out in the wilderness. Perfect for rainy days!

What are some of your favorite Portland museums? Share them with us in the comments below!

Oregon Maritime Museum Diving Suit by steve estvanik/Shutterstock. 

Tags : travel   Portland   Oregon   museums   

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